By Robert A. Vella
As I conveyed yesterday, an accurate assessment of President Trump’s foreign policy blunder which enabled the Turkish invasion of northern Syria to eradicate the Kurds is only possible through objective analysis. Subjective perceptions are wholly inadequate. Trump’s rhetorical ramblings are valueless other than those which expose his deceptions, his dishonesty, and his dysfunctional behavior. This developing crisis in the Middle East, which should rightly be described as an inhumane ethnic cleansing campaign by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a geopolitical power grab by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, is much bigger than Trump and his rabid supporters.
In today’s post, we’ll examine the depth and consequences of Trump’s failure in Syria. We’ll cover new developments in the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry including the political fallout from yesterday’s admission by the White House that Trump tried to coerce Ukraine’s president with an illegal quid pro quo deal, and how Trump has become a political liability for Republicans in – of all places – Texas. We’ll also take a look at the prosecutorial proceedings against the business associates of Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani plus more important news stories.
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Shelling could be heard at the Syrian-Turkish border on Friday morning despite a five-day ceasefire agreed between Turkey and the United States, and Washington said the deal covered only a small part of the territory Ankara aims to seize.
Reuters journalists at the border heard machine-gun fire and shelling and saw smoke rising from the Syrian border battlefield city of Ras al Ain, although the sounds of fighting had subsided by mid-morning.
The truce, announced on Thursday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, sets out a five-day pause to let the Kurdish-led SDF militia withdraw from an area controlled by Turkish forces.
Last month, at the United Nations, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan waved a map of northeastern Syria before the world’s dignitaries. His point was to demand U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, whom Washington had relied upon to fight the so-called Islamic State, get out. His subtext was that he was ready to violently extend the Turkish border southward, seizing Syrian territory.
In Ankara on Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence gave Erdoğan everything the Turks wanted in the long-telegraphed war Erdoğan launched following a green light from President Donald Trump during a now-infamous Oct. 6 phone call. The U.S. did not even get the status quo ante.
The Turks did not agree to withdraw from Syrian territory. They agreed to a ceasefire, Pence announced. Over the next five days, the Kurdish forces that the U.S. abandoned are to withdraw approximately 20 miles south. In exchange, the Trump administration agreed not to implement new sanctions—Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen introduced a new sanctions package as Pence briefed reporters—and, should the Turkish ceasefire hold, will lift those the administration placed on Turkey after Trump’s greenlight drew widespread backlash.
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said that Trump’s letter to him urging caution in Syria showed a lack of respect, and he warned that he would respond to it in time.
The White House confirmed earlier this week that Trump sent a letter to Erdogan on the situation in Syria. The letter concluded: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”
Erdogan said the letter was not in line with usual diplomatic customs and showed a lack of respect. The Turkish president, who is meeting with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, said: “When the time comes, necessary steps will be taken.”
Republican senator Mitt Romney delivered a blistering critique of Trump’s Syria policy in a Senate floor speech yesterday, calling the US abandonment of the Kurds “a bloodstain on the annals of American history.”
But as the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake noted, Romney also interestingly suggested that Trump may have been bullied into the decision by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Donald Trump, who took office bragging that he had assembled a team of “my generals” to lead his administration, is now receiving severe criticism from at least three former top military leaders – including his former defense secretary, Gen James Mattis.
Trump is taking heat from other former military leaders as well. Adm William McRaven, a former commander of the US Special Operations Command, penned a New York Times op-ed entitled Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President. And retired four-star Gen Barry McCaffrey slammed Trump’s Syria policy as “inexplicable”.
WASHINGTON — A top White House aide’s suggestion that President Donald Trump sought a political favor from Ukraine in exchange for military aid has upended the administration’s impeachment strategy and left his Republican allies flummoxed and frustrated.
White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that Trump’s decision to withhold $391 million in aid to Ukraine was linked to his desire for an investigation by Kiev into a debunked theory that a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server was held in Ukraine.
After weeks in which the president argued that he had done nothing wrong, Mulvaney’s comments, which he later sought to walk back, seemed to undermine the core arguments that Trump and his advisers have made against the effort to oust him from office.
First came the lengthy infomercial touting President Trump’s private golf resort in Florida as “far and away the best” site in the country to host next year’s Group of Seven summit of world leaders. Then, an admission: Trump did, in fact, withhold aid to Ukraine because he wanted the government there to investigate Democrats.
For 39 minutes Thursday, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney turned the press briefing room into a sort of confession chamber, openly admitting to several acts that could deepen the legal predicament for the president. Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry into whether he has abused his office for personal and political gain.
Mulvaney’s retort to those charges came in a three-word mantra that now forms the central theme of the White House impeachment response: “Get over it.”
A South Florida businessman accused of secretly working with clients of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney to funnel illegal foreign cash to U.S. political campaigns pleaded not guilty to a felony conspiracy charge Thursday during a brief court appearance in federal court in Manhattan.
David Correia, 44, denied allegations that he and three associates took hundreds of thousands of dollars from a foreign investor with “Russian roots” and doled it out to state and federal candidates and political committees.
Andrey Kukushkin, 46, also pleaded not guilty to one conspiracy charge.
During the hearing, federal prosecutors said they had reams of documents to help prove their case.
Trump in Texas
The Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives is engulfed in scandal. Six of the state’s 23 Republican members of the United States House of Representatives say they will not run for re-election, opening new opportunities for Democrats. And one of the state’s three top Republican leaders believes that the president has become a political liability among a crucial bloc of voters.
“With all due respect to Trump — who I love, by the way — he’s killing us in urban-suburban districts,” Dennis Bonnen, the speaker of the state House and the central figure in the legislative scandal, said in a 64-minute tape recording released on Tuesday.
The recording of a sometimes salty conversation Mr. Bonnen had with a conservative activist at the State Capitol in June includes a description of what critics have called a quid-pro-quo offer that is now under investigation by the Texas Rangers.
A new round of tariffs on European Union goods, such as wine, cheese and olive oil, are set to go into effect Friday, a move that illustrates the current dim prospects for a broader U.S.-EU trade deal. Negotiations for the deal stalled earlier in the year over agriculture issues, and lawmakers and trade groups see no indication that the sides are any closer to starting negotiations.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration from easing rules on mining, drilling and grazing across millions of acres in seven Western states, saying such activities left unchecked were likely to harm a struggling bird species.
The ground-dwelling greater sage grouse is at the center of a bitter conflict between the administration and conservationists involving how much of the West’s expansive public lands should be opened to development.